I guess it’s not bad to be remembered in the sometimes poetically exhaustive words of Wikipedia, as someone who “compared Joseph Stalin to the abominable snowman. She also wrote about onions, cats in empty apartments and old fans in museums.”
I’m not much of a poetry reader, but Wislawa Szymborska’s always seemed to me as familiar as tiny epiphanies I’ve had and then immediately forgotten. Her words carry that same cryptic clarity as Emily Dickinson’s and the same touching way of dealing with the tragic, but denying it tragicness (yes, I know this word doesn’t exist, but I think it should).
A Little on the Soul
Periodically one has a soul.
Nobody has it all the time
Day after day
year after year
can pass without it.
Sometimes only in rapture
and in fears of childhood
it dwells within longer.
Sometimes only in the astonishment,
that we have become old.
It rarely assists us
in strenuous pursuits,
such as moving furniture,
or tromping through a road in tight shoes.
While filling in forms
and chopping meat
it usually takes the day off.
In a thousand of our conversations
it participates in one,
and not even necessarily in one,
When our bodies start aching more and more,
it silently leaves the ward.
it doesn’t see us immediately in a crowd,
it sickens at our attempts at mere advantage
and the shrill clamor of business.
Joy and sorrow
are not all that different to it.
Only in the combination of them
does it stand up.
We can rely on it,
when we are certain of nothing,
and when everything seizes us.
It doesn’t say where it comes from
and when it will disappear next,
but it clearly awaits such questions.
It looks like,
as much as we need it,
needs us for something too.
“I sometimes dream of situations that can’t possibly come true. I audaciously imagine, for example, that I get a chance to chat with the Ecclesiastes, the author of that moving lament on the vanity of all human endeavors. I would bow very deeply before him, because he is, after all, one of the greatest poets, for me at least. That done, I would grab his hand. “‘There’s nothing new under the sun’: that’s what you wrote, Ecclesiastes. But you yourself were born new under the sun. And the poem you created is also new under the sun, since no one wrote it down before you. And all your readers are also new under the sun, since those who lived before you couldn’t read your poem. And that cypress that you’re sitting under hasn’t been growing since the dawn of time. It came into being by way of another cypress similar to yours, but not exactly the same. And Ecclesiastes, I’d also like to ask you what new thing under the sun you’re planning to work on now? A further supplement to the thoughts you’ve already expressed? Or maybe you’re tempted to contradict some of them now? In your earlier work you mentioned joy – so what if it’s fleeting? So maybe your new-under-the-sun poem will be about joy? Have you taken notes yet, do you have drafts? I doubt you’ll say, ‘I’ve written everything down, I’ve got nothing left to add.’ There’s no poet in the world who can say this, least of all a great poet like yourself.””